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Proposed northern extension of Metro Rail gets another rollout

The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority went back to the public Thursday night to show off its latest version of plans for extending Metro Rail north into Amherst.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

The plan has been changed extensively and has become a high-profile project. This latest proposal has a fairly definite design.

Cutting back tunnelling along Niagara Falls Boulevard to near Kenilworth Road cuts out a substantial amount of drilled tunnel and an underground station. NFTA Executive Director Kim Minkel said that will save $200 million.

From there, the route would stay on the boulevard to Maple Road, then over Maple and Sweet Home Road to the University at Buffalo North Campus. Eventually, Minkel said, it might extend to the I-990.

She said the next stage is doing the environmental studies for the proposal.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"It's pretty extensive, when you consider that we need to take a look at many different things," she said. "We need to take a look at traffic impact, noise, vibration, air quality, impact on any historic property. That will take about two years."

If federal dollars begin to show up, there are further design and engineering stages leading to a potential start to construction in 2025.

Members of the public attending the session at Sweet Home Middle School Thursday evening had an array of views, with some wavering, some flat-out opposed and some seeing the extension as a real benefit to the community. Colin said it is an improvement for the future.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"This is a good start to building a more healthy transit system," he said. "This would be a strong spine that NFTA can then build off of, with possibly more light rail trains, street cars, things like that. I feel that this would be a good anchor that things can go off of, for the future."

Those opposed were mostly homeowners who live in the mostly residential first blocks of Niagara Falls Boulevard, the initial path of the extension. Joan Hoppe-Spink lives nearby.

"This is a completely residential area, north and south, five to seven blocks," she said. "I am just amazed that they would consider having that trolley go right through that residential area. The noise, both above ground and below ground, the vibration, the impact. I believe that the homes would go down in value."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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